No Way Jose def. Cezar Bononi
I like Jose and I dig his harmless act, but this was really one of those "been there, done that" type of matches. He was on a pretty major roll in the summer of 2016, but he was never the same after that loss to Austin Aries at TakeOver: Brooklyn II and he has been treading water ever since. It's extremely evident by this point he is nothing more than an undercard act that will probably never get called up to the main roster. Plus, I wouldn't be this surprised if this was merely meant to give him a hint of credibility before he gets squashed again soon.
Bianca Belair def. Latoya Allsopp
Belair was one of the biggest standouts of the Mae Young Classic late last year in my opinion, and the coolest thing is that she had no prior wrestling experience before signing with WWE. She is still very green, mind you, but she has plenty of potential and is already making great strides. This wasn't the prettiest outing ever, but she had a decent enough showing to at least leave an impression.
Percy Watson Interviewed NXT Women's Champion Ember Moon and Shayna Baszler
This match was put together so quickly for TakeOver: Philadelphia that they needed something like this to add heat to their upcoming championship clash, so I liked their verbal back-and-forth. Moon is still a bit uncomfortable on the mic, but Baszler is perfect as the newcomer who couldn't care less about those who came before her in NXT. On a side note, Watson gets a lot of flack from fans (and I tend to agree with them) about being completely useless on the NXT commentary team, but I thought he played his role as the interviewer well here.
The Authors of Pain vs. Damien Smith and Chris Chase Brown
Before the bell could even sound, Authors of Pain stormed the ring and immediately laid waste to their opponents, so the match never came to fruition and it didn't need to. They looked like total monsters with their attack and I appreciated that this was kept short and sweet. Authors of Pain are riding a wave of momentum into their NXT Tag Team Championship match on Saturday night, but I don't expect them to take home the gold against The Undisputed Era.
Johnny Gargano def. The Velveteen Dream in an NXT Championship No. 1 Contender's Match
Aside from how Gargano winning was pretty predictable, this was an excellent main event with phenomenal performances from both guys. Hell, even the crowd bought into a few of the nearfalls down the stretch and they proved that they work very well together. Dream has truly been a revelation in recent months and I'm stoked to see his progression going forward. This could have been a quick warm-up for Gargano before TakeOver, but instead we were treated to a highly entertaining matchup that received an ample amount of time.
I'm not sure if this edition of NXT did anything to make me more excited for TakeOver: Philadelphia than I was before (and it should be noted I was already amped up for the event considering I will be there in attendance for it), but it was a solid go-home show on the whole. The main event is the only match worth going out of your way to see, but the build for the Women's and Tag Team Championship matches was well done. The first two matches felt out of place on this show, though.
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